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Amazon's Kindle DX Turns A Page In E-Books

My commute to work this week hasn't left the usual amount of newsprint on my fingers. Instead of grabbing a section of the Post to read on the train (the Metro section usually fills that block of time perfectly), I've taken a Kindle DX loaned by Amazon's PR department.

The experience was pleasant -- I was no longer limited to one section of the paper, I could listen to some music (using the MP3-playback function Amazon labels as "experimental") and, of course, I didn't have any gray ink leftovers on my fingertips. On the other hand, I didn't have to pay for the Kindle, since it's going back to Amazon's publicists next week.

kindle_dx.jpg

Today's column doesn't provide an unqualified endorsement of this device. I think the DX has some potential unavailable in the smaller, lighter and cheaper Kindle 2 (for one thing, as you can hear in today's tech podcast, the DX correctly pronounces President Obama's last name), but it doesn't look like it's going to upend the e-book market.

Its $489 price alone should see to that. But the DX also suffers from the same DRM-imposed constraints as earlier models. Look, I don't care how cool it looks today; why should I invest my money in books that I can only read on the devices that Amazon allows? I don't put up with that in music and fail to see why I should accept that with books.

Well, at least books of lasting value. Things like textbooks and travel guides -- what you could call disposable literature -- are a different matter. And in that respect, the DX could be a huge step forward, thanks to the e-textbook tests Amazon will be running with five schools later this year.

The DX's newspaper deal -- agree to subscribe to the Kindle edition of The Post, the New York Times or the Boston Globe, and you'll be able to get the device at a discount -- also shows promise. But as I noted in today's column (and in the post I wrote when the DX was unveiled), it's counterproductive to limit that offer to people who can't get home delivery of each paper. If people closer to D.C. would rather pay to read the Post in Kindle form, why not let them? For that matter, if home-delivery subscribers would also like to add a Kindle subscription, why not cut them a break on that second form of delivery?

To judge from the comments on that earlier post, you agree with me on those points.

For what it's worth, other reviewers haven't quite been bowled over by the DX either:

* The Wall Street Journal's Walt Mossberg pronounced the DX a disappointment and called out one issue I didn't mention -- the absence of a lefty-friendly button layout.

* At mocoNews, Staci Kramer was no more enthusiastic, noting some glitches with wireless reception.

* Wired's Steven Levy gave it a 7-out-of-10 rating.

* At USA Today Ed Baig couldn't get over the Kindle DX's price.

What are your thoughts on the DX, and on the Kindle lineup in general? The comments are yours...

By Rob Pegoraro  |  June 19, 2009; 10:44 AM ET
Categories:  Gadgets  
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Comments

Rob, I'm assuming the Kindle DX does not use the free Adobe Reader to view PDF files, as it does have a "find" option. I don't know about other PDF "viewers" but I cannot see why anyone would use a viewer that does not have a search ability, when the free one does. Though perhaps no held devices use it.

Posted by: Tojo1 | June 21, 2009 10:38 AM | Report abuse

First, as a teacher, I need to annotate my books. Ink annotations are the best (I have a tablet PC), but a keyboard on a Kindle might work. I read in another review, however, that the Kindle DX keyboard was practically unusable because of the layout and, especially, the long delay between hitting the mushy key and seeing the result on screen.
Second, 250,000 titles sounds like a lot, but its really a very small fraction of the millions of titles Amazon sells. For avid and specialized book readers, content is everything.
So, although I would probably be part of the target audience for e-books, I'm waiting.

Posted by: jmyers8888 | June 22, 2009 9:20 AM | Report abuse

I bought the DX and I love it. I have a library of reading material at my fingertips in a format that is easy on my old eyes. The e-books are reasonably priced on Amazon and Whispernet delivery is fast. Transferring free material from Project Gutenberg (mobi) or Google Books (pdf) is easy. It is light enough that I can toss it in the carrying case with my tablet. In planes or trains I can prop it up on the seat back tray and read comfortably. I can read, annotate, and bookmark books and my own documents. As a bonus, I no longer have to print out downloaded recipes- I just store them in the Kindle and bring it to the kitchen (out of the way of splatters). I managed the cost by having never bought an iPhone or game box, so don't tell me about price. This is a device for something (reading) that is more important to me than game apps.

As far as not being able to port Amazon books to other devices, we have all spent money on software (and hardware) from several yrs ago that can't be used anymore (Wordstar anyone?) or even retrieve the information. 5-1/4" floppies? Zip drives? What will happen to my VHS tapes? It is a sad waste of money, but technology marches on. I have my fingers crossed that no matter how the e-book formats shake out I will be able to find a reader for my e-books. If not I will at least know that I saved a tree or two from being sacrificed.

PS- you can indeed search pdf files if they are searchable (some pdfs are image files and therefore not).

Posted by: ssquaw | June 22, 2009 4:46 PM | Report abuse

Still confused as 2 why people still insist on carrying around extra hardware, been reading books on phone/PDA @ leAst since '02. Finally back to 1 device instead of 2 (iPod touch & g1 phone replaced by iPhone 3gs) & couldn't be happier, more pocket space. Would love sweat proof gear though, as I am a mailman, hot!

Posted by: sindioses | June 23, 2009 1:12 PM | Report abuse

My first gen Kindle recently broke, an event which made apparent to me the absurdity of buying these devices. One may rationalize the purchase of such a device for convenience, but the purchase of a replacement be justified? We're talking serious money! I had a Kindle to read the Post, but now I read it on my cell phone, which I have insurance on. If Amazon followed Pegoraro's advice and liberated the files for other devices, I might use their store for ebooks and subscriptions. As it is, I'm a customer lost to them.

Posted by: ultramerican | June 23, 2009 3:43 PM | Report abuse

I know loads of Kindle and DX owners are a bit annoyed that it’s still hard to find many publishers that offer proper textbooks for student owners like me. I just found this site a few weeks ago though, www.bookboon.com and these guys publish a huge range of textbooks and every single textbook is made available to download free of charge in a compatible pdf e-book format with no registration. It’s a totally 100% free textbook solution perfect for new Kindle owners like me looking for good and free academic content!

They actually just put up a new accounting series, really good used the ones on Liabilities and Equity and Balanced Scorecard this year as prep for my acca exams. There is also a facebook app with all the books on, http://apps.facebook.com/bookboon Check it out guys…

Posted by: estellavonkoln | June 24, 2009 6:03 AM | Report abuse

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